It is said that the first step in any endeavor is the hardest, but I think knowing what the first step should be is what’s hardest. Whether you need to be enticed or shoved, you come to a point where the status quo isn’t working for you anymore. Mine came when I was ordered to go to the store for cigarettes in a mini dress with no underwear. That doesn’t sound like a big deal bit, for me, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I couldn’t get out of the car, step up on the curb, or get back in, without exposing myself and he knew I would be humiliated.
I made up my mind I had had enough! But I needed a plan, or he would find me and drag me back into the quagmire that was my life. The violence was escalating, and I feared for my life because he would tell me, in great detail, how he would kill me and no one would ever suspect him. He was an insurance inspector and had a lot of contacts plus the experience of uncovering fraudulent claims that I was convinced he could do what he threatened.
I found the number for a shelter for battered women and called. Their only requirement beyond the abuse was that alcohol was involved. It had something to do with their funding. Since he consumed at least a fifth of whisky a day I had no trouble being accepted. Next, I needed to decide what to take. I had about $40 and picked out a few changes of clothes for myself and my son. Putting them in a large pillowcase, then storing them in the back of the closet, I was ready for the next step. At my son’s preschool I told the teacher what had been going on and she agreed to help cover my tracks if my husband came looking for us. The following school day, I put the pillowcase and my son’s bike in the car and drove away, watching my life as I knew it get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. We left school that day a bit early and drove across town to the shelter.
It may sound simple, at the time each step was terrifying, but it was the best decision I ever made. Once off the rollercoaster that had been my life, there was the time and support to start moving forward and re-building our lives. At last choices that weren’t just about surviving were mine to make again, and this time I paid more attention to them.
We seem to get caught up in the daily roles of our lives and just allow the choices to be made for us. But, the power of choice is singularly human and it’s never too late to take that power back.